If you can recall a more combustible season from an otherwise anonymous team, at least from the modern era, I’d love to hear it. Anything to get my mind off of the 2014-15 Sacramento Kings. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] The team itself may have had playoff aspirations entering the season, but those outside Sacramento (figuring that it would take around 49 wins to make the playoffs in the West) would have settled for, at the very worst, competency. This was still a mismatched roster working off of a series of lottery draft pick whiffs, trying to settle on a rotation and a cogent philosophy. Instead, the owner and the general manager fired the team’s highly-regarded coach (thought of well by observers and franchise players alike) just after an illness to DeMarcus Cousins sent the Kings on an early-season swoon. A season that began with a 9-5 start was sent reeling once the Kings ownership group promoted Tyrone Corbin to the We’re Obviously Going to Fire This Guy After the Seasons Ends Interim Head Coach role, promising the basketball lifer that he’d have the gig for the rest of the year prior to firing him after a 7-21 run. [ Yahoo Fantasy Basketball: Sign up for a league today ] Enter George Karl and, because the team’s owner enjoys doing this, Vlade Divac. Karl finished the Kings’ season by winning as many games as the coach that the Kings fired to start the season, Michael Malone, but it took him six more games to do as much. Meanwhile, Divac ascended from what felt like a ceremonial role as team ambassador to a fully-fledged gig as the team’s personnel chief. This was news to the incumbent GM and his staff, who fled in Divac’s wake. Yet again, the Kings were left with a coach that was hired prior to the personnel director, which has never worked in Kings history and rarely works in NBA annals. The owner of the outfit squelched any goodwill he earned for helping keep the Kings in Sacramento by valuing name guys over substantive decision-makers, digging deeper holes for one of the NBA’s saddest franchises along the way. Good thing the name guys, despite what looks to be an ongoing disconnect, have potential. George Karl will, eventually, burn your team. He will clash with your front office, possibly your owner, and he will piss your players off. Before he gets to that point – and that point will come – he will sand down the edges and help your team win. He will think on the fly, call appropriate sets, and he will motivate. Karl has never been good at running teams with heavy expectations, but if you’re looking for an “it’s just us against the world, men”-sort of leader, he’s your guy. And the Kings need that guy right now because, well, nobody trusts this roster. Vlade Divac, meanwhile, knows how to run organizations. He might come off as the affable 7-footer that smoked as a Laker and flopped as a King, but he can put things in order. Just a few months after moving up the ranks in Sacramento he managed to put Karl – a man who is fighting to earn the record for most coaching wins in NBA history, mind you – in line after Karl said some accurate-yet-pointless things on record about DeMarcus Cousins, before pushing to trade his star center . As a result, everything is cool now ; with Karl even apologizing for discussing any King (read: DeMarcus bloody Cousins) in those terms: “But it’s my responsibility to be smart enough to not say things like that,” Karl continued. “So I did apologize because I thought that was the only thing, maybe some other things, but really the only thing that got us separated was that comment that then everybody wrote the we’re going to trade [Cousins].” “To be honest with you, I apologized to DeMarcus for making the trade comment that I’ve never coached a player that’s untradeable,” Karl told Christensen. “That was wrong for me to say, because you all (the media) took it and blew it up into crazy.” Yeah, George. The media. Because Woj totally makes stuff up, and because we totally didn’t say you were right in pointing out that any player is just about available for the right price before slamming you for going public with those thoughts – the actual thing you apologized for. The media. Can we talk about basketball now? 2014-15 season in 140 characters or less: lol Did the summer help at all? In the sense that it mostly kept George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins away from each other, and away from the media, yes. We apologize for clinging to the soap opera aspect of this, but players and coaches rarely come more combustible than DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl, and Karl tried to get Cousins traded against the wishes of his bosses . He’s been there since February. Beyond that, the Kings did truly shore up a bit. We hope. Rookie Willie Cauley-Stein was reported to look somewhat winded and zaftig during the first week of camp, but if he’s able to translate that “I’m Shane Battier, but I’m also 7-feet tall”-game to the pros, he could be the perfect frontcourt pairing with Cousins eventually. Signee Marco Belinelli has fared well on teams with both great and poor spacing (the Kings figure to be the latter), while Kosta Koufos remains as good as reserve centers come. Meanwhile, the team signed heady types like Quincy Acy, Luc Mbah a Moute, and swingman Caron Butler while retaining Omri Casspi (who enjoyed an NBA rebirth under Karl last season). These aren’t boffo names, but if Karl and Divac are working in concert this could settle into a solid enough rotation. Go-to offseason acquisition: Anytime your team acquires Rajon Rondo, it’s going to be Rajon Rondo. We’ve prattled on endlessly about the Cousins and Karl dynamic, and for good reason. With that established, Rajon Rondo is going to have the ball in his hands this year. He’ll be directing Karl’s offense and running – George hopes – Karl’s plays. He’ll have an entire training camp, a purportedly healthy knee, and a learned knowledge of the roster to lean on. In short, Rajon Rondo has no excuses.
A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out. C : Sports Illustrated . Rob Mahoney checks in from the New Orleans Pelicans' first training camp under new head coach Alvin Gentry, where the players are all the same but everything is changing, and brings with him something so simple and clear that we hesitate to call it a prediction: "[Anthony] Davis would be an MVP candidate while playing for any coach in the league. Under Gentry he’s the clear favorite for the award." [ Yahoo Fantasy Basketball: Sign up for a league today ] PF : NBA.com . James Harden still thinks he was the NBA's Most Valuable Player last season, and enters this season eager to prove he can do even more, according to Fran Blinebury. (For what it's worth, Stephen Curry doesn't seem to think too much about all that.) SF : Bleacher Report . While the rest of us wonder when, not if , the Sacramento Kings will self-destruct this season, DeMarcus Cousins says this year's MVP trophy is "mine to grab" and that, for the first time in his career, the Kings have "playoff expectations." SG : SB Nation . Yes, Paul George got loose at the four-spot on Tuesday, but Mike Prada digs into the tape and sees that plenty of reason for the Indiana Pacers star to object to playing power forward — that's a lot of work. PG : ESPN.com . Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst dig deep to unearth the palace intrigue behind how the Atlanta Hawks' ownership group fell apart. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] 6th : Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News . Point guard Raul Neto looked impressive defensively in his preseason debut against the Los Angeles Lakers, and his dad loved John Stockton, so some Utah Jazz fans — eager for an answer at the point after Dante Exum's injury and amid Trey Burke's inconsistency — are already penciling the Brazilian rookie in for greatness. That has Jazz head coach Quin Snyder calling for brake-pumping. 7th : Eye on Basketball . Matt Moore sits down with Jameer Nelson to talk about what it takes to become a veteran leader, what it means to be a mentor, and how he views his role on a Denver Nuggets team intent on building around 19-year-old rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. 8th : Grantland . Jonathan Abrams on how Wesley Matthews became an NBA player, and how he's working his way back to being one after suffering arguably the most devastating injury an NBA player can suffer. 9th : Basketball Insiders . Ben Dowsett tries to figure out how Enes Kanter fits into new Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan's offensive and defensive philosophies, and comes away wondering just what Sam Presti spent $70 million to accomplish. 10th : WEEI.com . Our Ben Rohrbach, elsewhere, considers the decision facing the Boston Celtics and Brad Stevens: do we start Isaiah Thomas, or bring him off the bench as maybe the best sixth man in the league? - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
The Orlando Magic have all the pieces. We just don’t know how they all fit yet. Ever-improving 24-year-old 7-footer Nikola Vucevic is the eldest statesman in a starting lineup that features a fellow mid first-round find from the 2011 NBA draft, Tobias Harris, fresh off signing a four-year, $64 million extension in restricted free agency, and three top-10 picks from the 2013 and 2014 drafts — the uber-athletic trio of forward Aaron Gordon and guards Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton. [ Yahoo Fantasy Basketball: Sign up for a league today ] Headlined by Vucevic, who was worthy of a 2014-15 All-Star invitation, even if he didn’t receive one, every member of the Magic’s young core has shown considerable promise. Mix this year’s No. 5 pick, Mario Hezonja, with an odd blend of untested youth and the team’s only players born before 1989 — Channing Frye, C.J. Watson and Jason Smith — and you’ve got arguably the league’s most unpredictable roster. There’s a reason Orlando has picked in the top five for three straight years. They’ve been bad. Like, really bad. They haven’t won more than 25 games in a season and own a .276 win percentage since trading Dwight Howard in 2012. Their Magic act has been worse than "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"’s Rotten Tomatoes rating . It’s now up to prodigal son Scott Skiles to develop a cohesive unit out of this bunch in his first year coaching the Magic. His hardball approach has whipped young teams into shape in Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee, making playoff appearances in Year 2 of his short-lived tenure at each stop, but his act also meets a Siegfried & Roy end. But we’re talking Year 1 here, so he’s still all right. And the Magic might be, too.
|Adrian Wojnarowski||Los Angelesin 7||The 2-3-2 format is such an advantage to the home team. Just don't see a way Kobe doesn't close out in a Game 6 or 7 at Staples. Chance for epic series between these two teams full of great players and great winners.|
|Marc J. Spears||Los Angelesin 7||The Lakers have no one to slow down Rajon Rondo, but Kobe Bryant is playing on a higher level offensively than anyone in the postseason.|
|Johnny Ludden||Los Angelesin 7||For all the injuries he's dealt with, Kobe looks remarkably fresh. He'll need to trust his teammates more than he did in '08, but they'll also give him more of a reason to do so.|
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